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Music that was buried under the dust of the ages - 60%

oneyoudontknow, January 4th, 2013

The history of this release is a sad one and this has not only to do with Arcane Sun but with a couple of other bands as well. Their former label Ars Metalli went down the drain before their second output was able to see the light of day and completed. As of now it is still unreleased and the version used for this review has been provided by the Irish Metal Archives with permission from the band; the same is true of most of the other recordings.

When it comes to discussing 'Fade' two changes have to be highlighted: the use of samples and a general drift in the concept. The aspect of the former is not completely new to the concept, because on the sole demo of Misanthropy as well as on the first Fifth Dominion one such made already a small appearance – each time with a bit too much of a cliché. Considering the scale of this facet on Arcane Sun's second output these prior example pale in comparison. Every track on Fade has a sample … and the last track comes with even two of them. They help to establish a strange focal point at the opening and with each new composition the listener is taken out of the realm of the music for a short period of time.

Do you know the opening sample of the first piece? Are you familiar with the movie from which it had been taken? Being actually aware of it, the first spin of this release was marked with expectations nearly impossible to match. “Pi”, not to be confused with the novel “The Life of Pi” and its recent adaptation, is the source and those who have taken the trip of 'enjoying' it completely will agree on its peculiarity, absurdity and strangeness. But it seems the band used it because it offers them with a reference to their name as well as foreshadowing of a rebellious spirit; something commonly associated with young and 'fresh' bands. The following presents the list and references of all samples:

1: “When I was a little kid my mother told me not to stare into the sun. So once when I was six I did.”
Pi –

2: “Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments. Only afterwards do they claim remembrance on account of their scars.”ée

3: “Pues el delito mayor del hombre es haber nacido. The worst mistake is to have been born in the first place.“
The Spanish part is from Pedro Calderón de la Barca, while the narration is by William S. Burroughs. The source of it all is unknown though. Could be a movie, could be a recording.

4: “What we see and what we seem are but a dream....”
Picnic at Hanging Rock –

5: “The problem in the past has been the man turning us against one another... Can you dig it? Can you dig it?” (Note: edited by the band)
The Warriors –

6: “I'm afraid, my mind is going. I can feel it, I'm afraid.” (Note: edited by the band)
2001: A Space Odyssey –

7: “Become yourself, then god and the devil don't matter.”

8: “Somehow, it was hotter then. … The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer.“

9: "Even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day."

10: “How ugly they are! Who'd ever believe they were once beautiful?”'s_Journey_into_Night_(1962_film)

11: “I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”
Network –

12: “Lord, I am tired. Sometimes I wonder if you really understand. Not that You mind the killin's. Yore Book is full of killin's. But there are things you do hate Lord: perfume-smellin' things, lacy things, things with curly hair.”

12: “The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, [...]. Buy the ticket, take the ride.“
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas –

Alternative versions:
3: “Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.”
Naked Lunch –

10: “Take advantage of the sunshine before the fog comes back. … Because I know it will.”'s_Journey_into_Night_(1962_film)
(see the other track 10)

A short but very important comment:
while doing the research for this long series about these three bands, I used a download a version of “Fade” that seems to have been uploaded a bit earlier than the online on the bandcamp entry. The difference? Only two samples actually; the ones listed above. As this release has never been completed in its entirety, these various versions reflect the attempts of the band to experiment and to set the right mood for the music. A definite opinion might be difficult to make in this regard, but the first version, which I had have a chance to give a try, seems to be more consistent in style and concept. What strikes as rather odd is the use of aggressive vocals at the beginning of “Fulfill” (second version), while also the slightly mocking tone in “Into Blindness II” (second version) feels kind of odd. The review is on the first part of the list presented above.

Back to the main topic:
This list is by no means superfluous. It helps to understand this release a bit better and to examine the development of the band in an appropriate kind of way. Even though some of the short samples have a rather pathetic touch – Endure, Dream Oceans – or try to come over as rather depressing – Into Blindness I –, their total share as well as they way they had been woven into the compositions, backfires and poses rather difficult questions.

Why is it that each of the tracks has to open with one but is rarely allowed to show one in a later part of a track?
How does the content of the sample and the track work together?
What are the benefits of these, compared to their absence?

A glance over the track list indicates the existence of several conceptual blocks: 2-5; 7-8; 9-11. This is merely some kind of speculation and with no lyrics at hand, there is not much to back this up. In some respect the track titles are able to give some kind of indication, but the task on how to place it all into a broader context remains a tricky thing indeed; at least from the perspective of a reviewer. Maybe all that follows should be taken with a grain of salt.

A constant aspect of the history of the band been the tendency to refuse to allow stagnation take on the concept, which as a result would have meant to copy the earlier concept over excess – something too many bands tend to do. No, these Irish musicians were, and this had been independent from the actual line-up, driven by an urge to reinvent the concept continuously. It is of no surprise therefore to find a good amount of changes between the two “major” outputs of Arcane Sun.

Instrumentals had been a part of the band 's discography before – Vow of Silence on Fifth Dominion's Pain, Rage & Laughter –, but the scale and way in which these appear on “Fade” is unprecedented so far. Four have found a place among the tracks and their generally calm nature gives them a counterpoint, which, considering the removal of extreme metal elements from band 's concept, might led to a rather ambiguous perception. Something that plays into this is the occasional Spanish touch of parts of the music. Yes, flamenco-style arrangements have been woven into music of a metal band. Maybe another release would have presented Arcane Sun's art with Klezmer influences or even with overtone singing.

This one change indicates another one: the melancholy of the previous days has been diminished in impact. Stylistically, the compositions have a rather playful touch and present a variety of influences as well as approaches. To reduce everything to the death or even doom metal, the two genres which all prior outputs have been associated with, is definitely misleading. Some parts of the album show references to (progressive) rock/metal, hard rock, thrash/death metal and some small hints to other genres as well. At times the listener is thrown from one genre into the next and the samples do their best to confuse the listener even more. It is difficult to point to something as constant – in sensu that it can be pointed towards as creating the basis for this recording, a red line so to speak. Similar to the debut, also the second instalment is rather perceived as a compilation than an ordinary album. As it had never been completed, it is difficult to speculate about how much of the current impression might have occurred in a finalized version.

The perhaps most curious composition on the album would be “Into Blindness III”. This has to do with the peculiar riff, which appears all of a sudden after a couple of minutes. It has something of the vibe of the debut release. It has a nice drive, a peculiar playfulness. It has something that grabs the listener immediately. Aside from this, when it comes to outstanding characteristics, then the solos need to be mentioned as well. Not only is the scale in which these appear is unprecedented, also the variety and conceptual width is definitely astonishing. Be it with e-guitars or acoustic ones, be it progressive metal inspired or rather jazzy, the Irish musicians deliver on a broad scale.

The clean vocals are there, the growls, the occasional intensity but aside from that a lot has seen a revamping. It feels like a different band had composed, arranged and recorded “Fade (a Soundtrack for the Arcane)”. Even though some nice moments can be found, it leaves the listener confused and puzzled once it is over. How is someone supposed to understand or interpret this variety of conflicting facets, samples and approaches?

Well, we will never know … and this “final chord” feels somehow unsatisfactory.

Available here (with the tracks of the two versions):

Part of a series, which presents the bands prior to Arcane Sun and all of their respective releases.
Can be found in the ‘A dead spot of light (Number 21)’: